Archived Story

No one can take away our memories

Published 10:55am Monday, November 5, 2012

I was talking to an old friend the other day and I said to him, you know what, there is something that no one can take away from us.
It is our memories of days gone by. He wholeheartedly agreed with the old Cardinal.
Going back to 1938 and I’m just 8 years old. So here are some of my memories of those years past.
I’ve just had one of Mom Gill’s suppers, and I’m out the door to join my neighborhood friends, John and James Luthringer, plus my across the street neighbor, Gene Biek, to go to the vacant lot in back of Gene’s house (yes, back in the 1930s, Dowagiac had lots of those vacant lots).
Our spacious lot ran from North Street to the back of the Springsteen house on Wayne Street.
On the east side of the lot on North Street was the Arley Lee house, which had a big, black, sweet cherry tree, where we kids imbibed ourselves with old Arley’s sweet cherries.
On the west side of the lot was the house of old Vint Beller and wife Anna (I’ve written about the Bellers before).
In our old vacant lot we had many enjoyable games of work-up softball. (I can’t recall whose bat and ball we used.)
Then, after a good game of ball and it had started to get dark, we would let the girls join us for hide and seek.
But when the street lights came on, it was time to head to our homes.
Later on a house was built in the front side of our lot on North Street, which made our lot too small for our softball games.
Not to be outdone, we moved our game to the gravel road on Wayne Street in front of Luthringer’s house.
Now at this time we were joined by a couple of Vic Phillips’ boys; a couple of Art Springsteen’s boys; and, if I remember right, Pete Hartman’s two boys were a part of our players.
But the use of our old lot was found to be still usable.
I would dig a small hole and put one of my mother’s quart Mason canning jars with a piece of apple in it, then lightly lay a piece of old cardboard over it, and when those big, black, crickets went in to eat the apple, it couldn’t get out of our trap.
We used these as good bluegill bait. We also used to get catalpa worms from those dirty old catalpa trees.
Remember how they had a lot of big, white, flowers in the spring and those old long pods in the fall?
Catalpa trees were ugly compared to our beautiful maple trees, where we used to collect some of their leaves, the pretty colored ones, then put them between the pages of a heavy book.
Those maple tree seeds used to spiral down like a helicopter.

“Cardinal Charlie” Gill writes a nostalgic weekly column about growing up in the Grand Old City. Email him at

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